Bengal, the land that saw some of the great minds in arts, literature and more can’t be left behind when it comes to food. Bengali cuisine as we know is much more than Fish and Rice. This exquisite cuisine that sees the influence of Awadh, Chinese, Armenian and subtly British is today a perfect blend of sweet and spicy flavours. A full meal follows a multi-course tradition where food is served course-wise usually in a specific format, marking it as the only meal of the subcontinent to have evolved such convention. Here’s few of quintessential Bengali dishes that you must try at home.
A simple preparation of potatoes and poppy seeds is always the star on the table. The Posto happens to be one of the common ingredients in the Bengali cuisine, but don’t forget that grinding them to a smooth paste is no child’s play.
All you need is mustard oil, poppy seeds, nigella seeds, green chillies and potato to make Aloo Posto. The rich poppy seeds coating with a hint of green chilli is a delectable delight. It’s is best enjoyed with steamed Rice.
A bitter-sweet medley of several veggies inclusive of Bitter Guard, Eggplant, Green Banana, Potato, Sweet potato, Drumsticks, White radish and Hyacinth Beans, this dish sees a very unique taste.
There is only one exclusive spice that goes into the making of this dish and it’s known as Randhuni. A light tempering with minimal ghee gives that great aroma. It is a delicious accompaniment with hot steamed Rice. It is said that this delicacy originated from Portuguese cuisine. The Shukto acts as a great cooling agent in the hot, humid weather.
Don’t get cheated by the name. It’s no way close to betrayal. Dhokar Dalna is a delicious fried chana dal cakes gently cooked in a thick gravy of Onion Ginger garlic along with cumin seeds, hing, and bay leaf. This lentil cake dish sees a process that’s little time consuming but it is worth the effort. This Bengali speciality can also be cooked the pure satvik, meaning without onion or garlic too. It is best enjoyed with plain white Rice or Lucchi as well.
Cholar Dal or Chana Dal prepared with ghee, coconut and mild other spices with the dash of sweetness is best paired with Lucchi - a deep-fried flatbread.
Lucchi Cholar Dal
It makes for a great sinful breakfast dish. This no onion garlic dal is slightly thicker in consistency. Coconut, raisins and garam masala lifts the flavours in this lentil curry. It is a must-have during Durga Puja. Warm and mellow Cholar Dal topped with golden fried coconut pieces is foodgasm as you dip the Lucchi and take that first bite.
No Bengali meal is complete without Kosha Magsho on the table.
This quintessential Bengali dish sees the technique and patience of slow cooking the gravy over low flame for a very long time to get a rich, dark-brown gravy and melt-in-the-mouth mutton pieces. Don’t forget the darker the colour of the gravy the better, but attaining that dark brownish colour is where the challenge lies. It’s perfect for that lazy Sunday afternoon lunch. Paired with plain white Rice or Lucchi, it’s heaven on a plate. It’s sure shot show-stealer.
The iconic Bengali Prawn Curry cooked delicately in creamy coconut milk with a mild sweet taste is a must at every wedding or any functions. This dish is no rocket science to cook. ‘Malai’ (cream) is a coconut-milk base, which seems to have made its way into Bengali kitchens through contact with Malaysian traders. Either the giant tiger (Bagda) or freshwater (Golda) Prawns with their head attached makes great for this curry. The mild flavours of Gota Gorom Moshla (whole garam masala). Served with rice makes for an authentic Bengali meal.
No Bengali meal is complete without an array of sweets, be it Sandesh, Rosholgolla, Chom Chom et al. But there is nothing in comparison to Mishti Doi, it’s something else. This sweetened yogurt rich light brown texture prepared with caramelized sugar, warm milk and fermented sweet curd. It’s a great after meal delight. The mixture of this humble Mishti Doi is placed in a traditional clay pot for it to settle well. The moisture contained by its porous walls thickens the yoghurt. Adding Nolen Gurer gives it a richer taste.
So, you don't have to go out as you can make these tasty delights at home. Stay safe!
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A former journalist with 11+ experience, is now an eminent home chef in the Ayandrali, is fond of reading about the history of food, travelling to explore different cuisine and more. With her years of practical food knowledge and hands-on cooking experience, Ayandrali is currently teaching in NIFT spreading her culinary knowledge along with keeping up her zest for Travel and Food alive. Her work has also been published in Times of India, Times Food, Food Tak, The Hindu, Mail Today, HuffPost India.